Having heard about Eastland Sushi & Asian Cuisine, I was prepared for a culinary tour. Boy, did the restaurant come through.
The lobby is a combination of Japanese and Chinese decor. The main feature there is a well-stocked koi pond that draws in children like a magnet. The Chinese-themed main dining room features marble topped tables, two of which seat eight in the round with huge canzhuo zhuanpan (lazy Susan-like turntables) in the center. Chinese-style wooden chairs and subdued lighting over the booth tables and across the ceiling provide a relaxed and gentle ambiance to the room. Despite having every table filled, the room was surprisingly calm and quiet.
A second smaller private dining room at the rear of the main room is themed with a Japanese motif, featuring large Japanese paintings. And there is a sushi bar and a cocktail bar in separate rooms off the lobby. Both were jammed.
I had a problem the minute I picked up the menu. The restaurant offers 200 items, with 62 varieties of sushi alone. For heaven’s sake, the take-out menu is seven pages filled with small type.
If you’ve a hankering for Chinese or Japanese this is your nirvana. I want to give you more than just a hint about the wide scope of their menu, but gentle readers just listing all 200 would leave no room for the review.
We wanted to try about 50 items, but we didn’t want to be carried out by a forklift. We chose to begin with vegetable tempura ($3.95), two each of golden battered onion rings, whole broccoli flowerets, squash and zucchini slices, including a small side of dipping sauce. All were crisp outside, greaseless, perfectly tender, flavorful, and moist inside.
The pot stickers ($3.95) were nicely browned, had thicker wonton skins than we’re used to, and were filled with a delicious meat filling. A veggie version is also available. We could have eagerly eaten plates of these for our main course.
Next up was a mouth-watering and very generous mound of Dried Sauteed String Beans ($8.95). They were al dente, not mushy, garlicky good, and something we’ll definitely order again.
Mu shu pork ($11.95) with accompanying flour pancakes and hoisin sauce and a platter of crispy duck with a side plate of noodles were our entrees. Both brought back vivid memories of the months I lived in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Guangzhou, China.
The mu shu was a delicious mountain of sauteed shredded pork with cabbage, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, egg and onion, superbly paired with a savory-sweet hoisin (soybean, garlic and chili pepper) sauce. Spread sauce on pancake, spoon on pork, wrap pancake like a burrito, eat.
The crispy duck ($11.95) is a half duck, seasoned with Chinese five-spice and fried until the skin is crackling and crisp. It’s messy and not for those who eschew eating around bones. The pepper-salt served alongside enhanced the salty-spicy tang of the skin. A dish of wok-fried plain rice noodles, a challenge to eat with chopsticks, were a nice break from the hearty duck meat and skin.
Dessert? Red bean or tempura ice cream, sticky rice or sesame balls? Nope. But a cocktail glass of iced lychee fruit was just the ticket. Refreshing and not overly sweet, the small fruit tasted like a blend of peach and pear. A perfect and exotic end to our Asian culinary tour.
Rick Browne can be emailed at email@example.com.